Natalie Portman is a very popular young actress. But, Portman is not her real last name, it is her grandmothers maiden name, which she chose to use to help protect her privacy (her real full name is "Natalie Hershlag", and I have no problem mentioning it since she is no longer a minor and it seems to be common knowledge anyway).
Natalie was born in Jerusalem, Israel on June 9, 1981. Her father was a doctor and her mother was an artist. Her family moved to America when she was still very young, and she ended up living in New York once her family finally settled down. She had a fairly normal childhood, well, normal in the sense that she learned to speak four languages and got nearly perfect grades (no wonder the geeks love her so much).
She was discovered by an agent in a pizza shop at the age of 13, and ended up landing a role in the 1994 film Leon, although they turned her down at first because she was too young for the role. From there she quickly landed roles in Heat, Developing, Beautiful Girls, Everyone Says I Love You and Mars Attacks! (although Developing was not a regular movie). That might seem like a lot of films, but Natalie is hardly a promiscuous actress. Actually, she turns down more roles than she accepts. Natalie has turned down starring roles in several of my favorite movies. For example, Natalie Portman was the first choice for Juliet in Romeo + Juliet. But she was uncomfortable with the idea of romantic scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio, who was 23 years old at the time (and she was only 14 then). She also turned down the lead role in in the 1997 film "Lolita" (and she would have been more than perfect). She said there was already enough exploitation in the world. "Let me tell you, this movie's going to be sleaze" was another of her comments about the film. Although I have to wonder if she even knew that it was a book by Vladimir Nabokov, after all, she was cast in The Phantom Menace without even seeing any of the other Star Wars films. Oddly enough she had no problem with her first film Leon, even though she begs her (much older) co-star for sex in one scene.
Next for Natalie was Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. This was the film that really put the spotlight on her (Romeo + Juliet or even Lolita probably would have, if she had taken those roles). She played Padme Amidala the Queen of Naboo. In a very odd twist of fate (or perhaps a double standard), she was now in the role of the older person romantically involved with a younger one. Although there was no making out, there was semi-obvious pseudo-sexual tension between the characters of Padme and Anikan Skywalker, and she was almost twice Jake Lloyd's age when this movie was filmed.
After The Phantom Menace she went on to do Where the Heart Is and Anywhere But Here. She is currently enrolled in Harvard University and is majoring in psychology (do a web search on "Natalie Hershlag" and you may pull up a few of her papers). She says psychology may end up being a career for her (she claims to really not be all that interested in a longterm acting career). Natalie has also recently decided to do no more films until she graduates (other than the next two Star Wars' ones of course).
Oh, yeah. Apparently there is also some slashdot meme about Natalie Portman naked and petrified and yet another involving her and hot grits.